Wen warns of rising trade barriers
Premier Wen Jiabao says tearing down trade barriers is crucial to stabilising trade amid the current global economic turmoil.
For the first time in five years, Wen yesterday opened the 110th China Import and Export Fair, formerly known as the Canton Fair, in Guangzhou.
He said trade disputes had become increasingly political and trade protectionism had worsened.
His visit to the biannual trade show, the largest and most established on the mainland, comes at a tough time for the country's export sector, which is feeling the chill from the mounting sovereign debt crisis in Europe and the economic malaise in the United States.
'Trade protectionism will only drag down the pace of the recovery from the global economic slowdown, which ultimately hurts people worldwide,' Wen said.
China, the world's largest exporter, is embroiled in disputes with its key trading partners, the US and the European Union, over a wide range of goods, such as toys, raw materials and tyres.
Wen urged countries to open up to competition while promising that China would do likewise this year, which marks the 10th anniversary of China's accession to the World Trade Organisation.
The premier's visit to the trade show raised some eyebrows among the 24,000 exhibitors at the autumn session fair, a bellwether for external trade.
The fair officially opens today and runs until November 4.
To be sure, the mainland is seeing a declining number of visitors and orders. The country's exports and imports slowed sharper than expected last month amid worries about the economic woes in Europe and the US.
Furthermore, the mainland is facing rising costs and wages, and labour shortages.
Ahead of his visit, Wen toured Wenzhou, in Zhejiang province, where some small, cash-strapped companies have recently declared bankruptcy and indebted private lenders absconded.
Some Hong Kong manufacturers in the Pearl River Delta said the credit market was tight in southern China.
Wilson Shea Kai-chuen, the president of the HKSME Association, said the months preceding the upcoming Lunar New Year would be critical to many smaller firms, as they would have to close their year-end books and settle payments.
'Overseas orders are declining and SMEs still have difficulties in obtaining loans,' Shea said. 'Life is getting tougher and tougher.'
Eddie Leung Wai-ho, the honorary president of the Dongguan City Association of Enterprises with Foreign Investment, said some exporters in the industrial hub had seen sales dive 20 to 40 per cent in the second half because of poor overseas consumer demand.
He said some sub-contracted, smaller factories were forced to close because larger plants did not have sufficient orders.